Sleeping Beauty

Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

The iconoclastic choreographer Matthew Bourne returned recently to L.A.'s Ahmanson Theatre with his latest--and quite daring-- production of SLEEPING BEAUTY, "a gothic fairy tale." The sub-title is apt, for this version of the Petipa/Tchaikovsky original (which premiered in St. Petersburg in 1890) features grotesque fairies (most of them male), black skies, and a Dracula-like villain (Caradoc, danced in sinister fashion by Adam Maskell).

Princess Aurora, the sleeping beauty herself, is first introduced as an impish baby (hilarious puppetry by Sarah Wright); later she appears as a cheeky teenager (Hannah Vassallo), who delights in rolling around in the dirt with Leo, the royal gamekeeper (Dominic North). Vassallo, a charismatic and free-spirited dancer, was given free rein by Bourne, as was her ardent suitor, Leo.

Actually, all of the dancing in this imaginatively retooled version of SLEEPING BEAUTY was fresh and inventive, a blend of traditional and original styles that we now associate with Bourne. The seventeen-person corps, buttressed by a swarm of extras (garden party guests, Caradoc's henchmen, sleepwalkers, etc.), skipped lightly and deftly through various time periods, making all the changes look easy and organic.
This production of SLEEPING BEAUTY was also noteworthy for its decor. Lez Brotherston's set and costume design were every bit as important and creative as Bourne's choreography and direction.

Coming up at the Ahmanson, March 4-April 13, is HARMONY, a new musical by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. Call 213-972-4400 or visit